They’re just a couple of kids at heart.
Richard Mueller and his brother, Glenn, have built a playground of trains for the world to enjoy, and this year they have made it even better.
The Muellers run the Mississippi Gulf Coast Model Railroad Museum on Pass Road in Gulfport, a nonprofit organization that showcases an impressive indoor display of model trains.
The brothers, with the help of volunteers, recently completed Phase One of their garden display behind the building. It is filled with trains you can watch and trains you can ride, all surrounded by a festive light display.
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“It’s a natural. Trains and Christmas go well together,” said Richard Mueller, 67.
“We think it’s a three-year project. Right now, we have just finished Year One.”
“There are several areas that are not complete yet, but we have a great structure and people are enjoying it already.”
Last Monday, about a dozen families came to enjoy the trains, all with bright smiles as they took in the details of the elaborate display.
The clear favorite of adults and children alike was the 1/4-scale rideable train that winds through the garden display.
The museum is also running a similar train at the Jones Park Christmas lights display. The organization began as a model railroad club based in Ocean Springs for 20 years. Now they have 31 members who have been active in creating and expanding their facility in Gulfport.
I am 61, but in train years I am 10. This is fun.
“It took us about six months to build this part,” said Glenn as he surveyed the fantasy land they have created. “I am 61, but in train years I am 10. This is fun.”
The brothers began their train collection when they were teenagers in Ohio. Richard began picking up trains from other teens who felt they had outgrown the hobby, his brother explained.
“We started collecting train after train after train, and we had quite a large layout when we were just teenagers,” Glenn said. “He got us hooked on it.”
“When you own one train, one is good, two is better, three is better, four is even more better,” said Richard with a wide grin on his face. “Now we’re operating tonight around 100 trains.”
The brothers moved to the Coast from Ohio 36 years ago and founded RPM Pizza. Richard retired a few years ago.
“He’s been working on the museum pretty much nonstop,” Glenn said. ”He has a lot more time to do this. I only get time to do this on weekends.”
“We continue to add decorations every day and the light show is just incredible,” Richard said.
Glenn’s wife, Val, was busy putting up polar bears, dolphins and other lighted figures around the display as visitors wandered through.
Parents like the display, she said, because their kids get to enjoy all the trains and Christmas lights without the parents having to set anything up.
There is even a hands-on room where kids and adults can play with electric and wooden trains.
“Everything we do is free, Richard said. “We survive on donations and we keep our payroll low because we have a lot of volunteers.”
“We obviously have fun,” said Glenn.